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County preparing to accept grant

The Schenectady County Legislature will likely accept a $53,300 grant later this month that would be used to add approximately 32 computers to the county's library system.

The grant, provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, would allow for the purchase of computers and related equipment at city of Schenectady branches, including the central library, the Hamilton Hill branch, the Duane branch, the Mont Pleasant branch and the Woodlawn branch.

If the resolution is approved by the county Legislature on Tuesday, July 8, the Gates Grant would be matched by $29,900 in county funding. Those funds are currently available in the county's existing capital budget.

Library Director Andy Kulmatiski said there is a rising demand for computer usage in the city, but not enough computers to go around.

These computers will provide Internet access for people who can't afford it, said Kulmatiski.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was created in 2000 by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife to help reduce inequities in the United States and around the world. Often called the largest charitable foundation in the world, the Gates Foundation's aims are to globally enhance health care and reduce extreme poverty. In the U.S., the foundation's primary goals are to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology.

A second grant initiative may also allow the addition of 14 more computers to city branches at a later date.

Kulmatiski said the computers would be available for public use during all operating hours. The five inner city branches are open a total of 184 hours per week.

While Minority Leader Robert Farley, R-Scotia, was supportive of accepting the grant, he said he'd like to extend library hours to increase computer usage.

The county reduced total library hours earlier this year from 373.5 hours per week to 346.5 hours per week in an attempt to decrease an increasing property tax levy.

"We should be addressing operating issues to increase the hours that were reduced," said Farley. "It does little good to have a computer there if the library isn't open."

Still, the prospect of increasing library hours doesn't seem imminently possible according to the county's Democratic majority.

"We have fiscal realities we need to face," said Legislator Gary Hughes, D-Schenectady, chairman of the Legislature's Committee on Education and Libraries.""

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